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Lawyers call for more horse-sense during Road Safety Week

Hundreds of horse riders and motorists are injured on the UK’s roads every year, prompting lawyers who handle injury claims to call for improved safety practices on both sides.

“The number of injuries to riders and motorists has barely changed in five years”, said Jonathan Wheeler, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) a national not-for-profit organisation which campaigns to prevent needless injury.

“During this Road Safety Week (23rd to 29th November) we’re asking motorists to be more aware of how they should behave towards horses on our roads”, he said.  “We are also asking for a real commitment from riding schools to include road safety in lessons to students.”

“While accidents can always happen, many injuries are the result of people not taking proper care and that is completely unacceptable”, he said.

Figures from the British Horse Society (BHS) reveal that 1,129 incidents involving a horse and a vehicle were reported between 2011 and 2015, approximately 225 a year.  Even if a horse dies and a vehicle is written off, however, it will not be officially recorded unless there is human injury which requires hospital treatment from the scene of the incident.

Sheila Hardy, senior executive safety coordinator for the BHS says drivers should leave at least a car’s width when overtaking at a speed of no more than 15-20 mph.

“If there isn’t that amount of room, remain a car’s length back and wait until you can see that it is safe to pass”, she said.  “Don’t get too close.  And if the rider invites you to overtake don’t unless you can see that it is safe for you to do so.  Do not assume that the rider can make that judgement on your behalf.”

The consequences of collision with a horse can be profound.  In December 2013, David was riding through an underpass in Surrey when a vehicle collided with his horse’s hind legs.  The impact caused him to lose control of his horse, injuring his neck and shoulder in his efforts to avoid falling off.

“I have to go for about a mile on public roads before I can reach a bridleway – I don’t do it for fun but just to get from A to B”, said David.  “Drivers should be patient and realise that riding on a road is often a necessity.”

But he also believes that riders can do more to help themselves.  “I wear high-visibility clothing and so does my horse.  But I see a lot of riders who don’t, or who even ride without a helmet.”

“Riding schools could help riders be more aware by including road safety in lessons.”

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